Good Scotch doesn’t have to break the bank, though, and it doesn’t have to be intimidating. In fact, there are plenty of brands and varieties that are worth your attention that will not cost an arm and a leg. Don’t let purists fool you: when it comes to good Scotch, it’s more about what you enjoy, personally, rather than adhering to a small, preordained list of gold standards.
Keep a few things in mind. “Bargain Scotch,” the kind that’s sold in a grocery store for under $20, is never worth your time or hard-earned dollars.
Another factor worth noting is that most good, affordable Scotch will probably come in the form of blended varieties rather than single malts. What’s the difference? Single malt Scotch whiskey is made from one grain, barley, and it comes from one distillery. Blended whiskey combines a variety of single malts in one bottle, including wheat or corn whiskies.
Good, Affordable Scotch: What to Look For
What Is Good Scotch?
Good Scotch is whiskey that is made with care and attention to detail. The best distilleries carefully perfect their process over hundreds of years, and then experiment to come up with new types of Scotch.
Scotch is not Scotch if it is not distilled and matured in Scotland for at least three years. Most distilleries will let their products mature for much longer. Good, basic Scotch whiskies are often sold at the 10-year or the 12-year mark.
However, that’s not to say that a younger Scotch will not be tasty. It’s safer to state that Scotch varies so widely in taste and aroma (and this flavor can be altered by adding a splash of water or soda), that it’s hard to define the ideal, basic good Scotch. The truth is, what constitutes good Scotch will be different for every Scotch lover.
Good Scotch Brands
There are some Scotch brands that do it right, year after year. These distilleries have perfected their process and continually produce quality whiskies at various price points, from reasonable and affordable to ridiculously expensive.
Just a few of these include:
- Glen Scotia
- The Macallan
- The Dalmore
- Highland Park
How Regions Influence Scotch Brands and Taste
Not only do Scotch whiskies vary based on production methods, they also vary in flavor based on where they hail from Scotland.
Scotland has distinctive regions for whiskey that each produce generally characteristic flavors. These regions include the Highlands, the Lowlands, Speyside, Islay, and Campbelltown. As such, good Scotch from one area will taste different from good Scotch that originated elsewhere.
Good, Cheap Scotch
If you’re low on funds but want to enjoy a good Scotch, you’re in luck. There are cheap Scotches that barely fly above the $20 mark, but are still quite tasty.
Isle of Skye 8-Year
For around $30, this option has a good array of flavors, including vanilla, oak, citrus, and walnut. It’s a blended Scotch that has a touch of smokiness that doesn’t punch you in the face.
The Black Grouse
At $24, The Black Grouse is a solid cheap option when it comes to Scotch. It’s incredibly bold and smoky, with notes of cocoa and spice. Note that this is a blended whiskey.
Glen Moray Elgin Classic
For a lighter, smoother cheap whiskey, try Glen Moray Elgin Classic. Running at just $23, it’s a great value. This one is low on smoke flavor but adds interesting elements such as a delicate sweetness. This is a single malt that is cheap but doesn’t do half-bad when it stacks up against similar, $40 bottles.
Chivas Regal 12-Year-Old
For just $25, you can get a bottle of this blended whiskey that is incredibly smooth and sweet, with notes ranging from apple to honey to vanilla.
Scotch can seem intimidating, sure. While Scotch snobs surely make that a fact, the truth is that this beverage is not just for those with refined palates and stuffed wallets.
In fact, you can get into the Scotch game for as little as a few bucks over $20. Purchase some cheap Scotch and acquaint your taste-buds with the heady aroma and complex flavors, and pretty soon you will be a Scotch connoisseur yourself.